STAMFORD, Conn. -- They may play brash, loud and physically imposing characters in the ring, but WWE performers told a gym full of young fans in Stamford that they, too, have been bullied.
WWE superstars Big E, Xavier Woods, Titus O'Neil and Diva Natalya spoke Friday about their experiences of being bullied and urged their young audience at the Stamford Boys & Girls Club to deliver a message about tolerance and respect.
Natalya said that although she is a WWE star and may appear to lead a charmed life on television, she said it was different during a difficult stage of her childhood.
"When I was growing up, I was bullied — and I was bullied a lot," she said. "They would call me names and say things that were not nice, and it really hurt my feelings."
She said it got so bad that she didn't want to go to school or play with her friends and her sisters. But she was able to overcome it by turning to others for support.
The professional wrestlers were at the Boys & Girls Club to promote the WWE's Be A STAR (Show Tolerance And Respect) anti-bullying program, which will be adopted by the club. Stephanie McMahon, WWE's chief brand officer, also presented a $25,000 check to the club at the ceremony.
McMahon said the WWE storylines often portray some characters bullying others.
"Sometimes a character will bully other characters on the show because we are trying to tell stories, but ultimately, those stories always end with the good guy winning in the end because he or she believed in themselves," McMahon said.
"That is a very important lesson that you can take away is to believe in yourself. No matter what happens, you have to believe in yourself and stand up for yourself and you will overcome."
Woods told the audience that as a kid growing up in Inglewood, Calif., he was able to turn to a family member and another person at his Boys & Girls Club to avoid being bullied into joining a gang. Now, not only is he a WWE superstar, he is also earning his doctorate, Woods said.
Joining the performers at the event was U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., who also told his audience about his childhood experience of being bullied on a playground.
Founded in 2011, Be A STAR’s mission is to ensure a positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation through grassroots efforts beginning with education and awareness.
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